Learn about the impact of pet sterilization campaigns on pets, families and communities.
By Rebecca MacDonald
President, Baja Dogs Sterilizations
Recently, we heard a commotion outside the gate at our home in El Centenario in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Dogs were barking furiously. My husband ran to see what was happening, and found a dog being attacked by a neighbor’s three large dogs. One had hold of the dog’s back leg. The other had hold of a front leg. They were literally about to tear this dog to pieces. My husband shouted and the dogs ran off, including the one that was being attacked. He wore a collar; we hope he made it home to his owner.
If you currently have a home in or have visited La Paz, you most likely have seen unaccompanied dogs roaming the streets. Not all of them are strays; many pet dogs here are allowed to roam free. However, whether or not the dogs have owners, all of these free-roaming dogs contribute to one big problem: they breed. These (almost always unsterilized) dogs produce litters of unwanted puppies, which, if they are lucky enough to survive, multiply quickly over several seasons into thousands of abandoned stray dogs.
It has been estimated that just one unsterilized female dog and her offspring can produce as many as 67,000 puppies in only six years.
La Paz is not unique in this way. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly two hundred million stray dogs worldwide. There are an estimated 70 million stray dogs in the US. The city of Houston, Texas, has an estimated one million stray dogs.
But, back to La Paz. There are some who think letting dogs roam free here is not a big deal, because the dogs are happier when they are free, right?
As La Paz residents who have personally rescued, fostered and adopted stray dogs here in La Paz for years, we have seen firsthand the desperate circumstances these dogs endure:
Mostly, they starve.
In summer, they become overheated and dehydrated, desperate for water.
They suffer and die from lethal diseases like parvovirus, distemper, erlichiosis and more.
They get hit by cars on busy streets and highways. In fact, 85% of dogs hit by cars are unsterilized.
They get attacked by other dogs.
They are poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally, and die an agonizing death.
The list goes on.
The problem doesn’t just affect dogs. It affects families and entire communities. The Washington Post recently published an article about the spread of a tick borne disease in Baja California called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s a deadly disease that is infecting, and even killing, young children, especially in poorer communities where dogs roam free. The dogs get infested with ticks, and children playing with and petting the dogs get bitten by an infected tick. By the time the doctors figure out the cause of the child’s illness, it’s often too late.
In addition to the dangers of tick bites, bacteria and parasites like leptospira, giardia, ringworm and others can be spread from dogs to humans. Stray dogs roaming in packs can become dangerous, both to other pet dogs and to humans, especially when they are sick, and starved.
It’s a grim picture, but completely avoidable. It is why pet sterilization is so important. Not just to control the stray dog population, but to protect families and communities. It’s about public health.
Don't get me wrong. We love Baja dogs. We have personally rescued, fostered and adopted out hundreds of dogs in the time we have lived here. And let me be clear: when we rescue, we do not pick up just any dog that might belong to someone. We rescue dogs that are clearly desperate: they come to us starved, injured and sick. They are brought to us as helpless puppies that were abandoned in boxes or bags on the beach. We’ve picked up dogs off the highway with broken limbs that had been hit by cars. Still, we do our best to find their owners, and we are in fact often called on by our local Mexican friends to help a dog or a litter of puppies.
The vast majority of the Baja dogs we help are smart, sweet, friendly, loyal, and just about the best dogs you will ever meet. But there are far too many of them being left to survive on the streets, and not nearly enough foster homes available to help them. Rescuers are overwhelmed.
It’s why we believe passionately in the mission of Baja Dogs Sterilizations: to reduce the overpopulation of unwanted pets by bringing free sterilization services to underserved communities every month. We bring our sterilization campaigns to these communities on a Sunday each month, to make it easier for families to bring their pets. In addition, we help families living on remote properties and ranches sterilize their multiple – often dozens – of pets by holding “mini-campaigns” on location at their homes. We offer free sterilization vouchers to those whose animals can’t be sterilized for health or other reasons on campaign day.
We are beginning to see positive signs from all of this work. But, we need your help. There are an estimated 50,000 stray dogs in La Paz. We have a lot of work yet to do.
If you would like to join us and help treat the cause of pet overpopulation, the most important thing you can do is donate to the cause. Just $25 USD pays for one sterilization surgery. If you make your donation monthly, you can help us sterilize 12 dogs. Based on that number we cited above about one unsterilized female, that’s 804,000 unwanted pups you can prevent being born to a life on the streets over just six years.
Won’t you join us?
To donate: visit https://www.bajadogssterilizations.org/donate.